Monday, July 09, 2007

Fellowship-filled Fourth of July

J. and I had the pleasure of hosting three of the six European Memorial Marshall Fellows for the Fourth of July along with Spring 2007 American Marshall Fellow Heather from Seattle.
Here we are after dinner... pregnancy

And all of us again with Heather's friend Nate in the picture on the left. We had a great time getting to know each other, talking about European institutions versus the American versions, and the unique experiences they had already had in their travels around the U.S.

Such as the church two of them visited in the south that was celebrating military veterans on the Sunday they attended services. In addition to the Marine-turned-pastor who gave the sermon, several Marines rappeled from the ceiling of the sanctuary during the services!

"This is very different from churches in Europe," one of the EMMF's said, still surprised by the event even in the retelling.

"Uh, that's very differnt from most churches here in the U.S.," I clarified.

They were all as smart and accomplished as the other fellows I've met to date, although they of course had the added skill of speaking multiple languages. They each spoke at least three to four, which reminded us Americans in the room how much of a disadvantage we're at on the international stage due to the typical American educational system's approach of not teaching foreign language until middle or high school.

Linguistic regrets notwithstanding, it was a wonderful evening and I hope they enjoyed a typical American fourth with a fairly typical American couple as much as we enjoyed them.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Doggie doings all weekend long

These days during my pregnancy, I find my energy levels veering from energizer bunny to desperately in need of a nap. Last weekend was an energized one, despite having managed to catch a cold.

I'm usually very diligent about handwashing, slathering on antibacterial gel and not touching doorknobs, handrails and other often-handled surfaces, so colds for me a very rare. Like once every year or 18 months. So having one in the summer while I'm pregnant was both surprising and annoying. Mainly because not only did it cut into my enjoyment of the incredible Seattle summer weather, but I also couldn't take my usual pharmacoeia to make the effects more managable.

A consultant nurse with my doctor's office said Tylenol was the only safe medicine for me at this point and suggested I take "hot liquids, spicy soups, and hot juices" to soothe my sore throat. Um, it's 80 degrees out, so the thought of hot juice would make me gag if my throat didn't already hurt. So I had to just tough it out cold turkey.

Plugged nose and sore throat notwithstanding, I at least had energy, so I decided to get out and enjoy the sun with the dog, use anti-bacterial like crazy, and steer clear of touching anything so as not to spread my cold germs around.

After picking up the pooch at my folks' house and a fun breakfast with an old co-worker in West Seattle, I headed to Seattle's North Beacon Hill area for a Meetup with other Pit Bull owners.
Here's Isis looking super attentive because she thinks I'm going to throw her ball any minute now. Note the dog that looks like her twin to the right. That dog's owner confirmed that there are many dogs with the same look around the area. Not sure who's breeding them, but they all have awesome temperaments, although his girl was a year or two younger than Isis and bigger. She also wasn't quite as dog-friendly as the others and was apparently prone to running giddily off into the woods for hours at a stretch, so her owner opted to keep her on leash even though we met in one of Seattle's many off-leash dog parks.

Here's me, the belly, and a still-attentive Isis. She did great, despite the 80+ degree heat. She'd romp with the other dogs a bit, chase the ball a bit, then lay in the shade a bit. Dark dogs and hot days are usually not the best combo, but there was plenty of water and shade and she was a great breed ambassador.

The next day, we hit the Fremont Sunday Market where I needed to pick up a ring to temporarily replace my wedding band which I've grown too big to fit. I have been wearing my engagement ring and band on a necklace. Now I can at least wear some semblance of a band.

With J. busy for the day, Isis played sidekick again and lounged in the shade of each stand I perused and willingly submitted to lots of petting by passersby who found her glossy coat and laid back demeanor irresistable.
The only activities that marred the sunny lovefest were two (!) separate West Highland Terriers who attacked Isis - once as she lay at my feet just inside a booth, and again as we walked up the sidewalk towards our car. One minute all's quiet and we're minding our own business, the next the Westies are lunging and snarling at the end of their leashes. Only one of the owners apologized. In both cases, Isis returned the growling and barking favor, which of course looks a lot more menacing coming from a 58 pound pitbull than a 2o pound Westie.

According to the Wikipedia, Westies are known as "big dogs in a little body" because of their "bold temperament." These could have become "hurt dogs in little bodies" if I wasn't so quick to take control of the situation and rein Isis back in, and if she had a more aggressive temperament.

In each case, I pulled her back into a sit then calmly walked her away from the situation while the Westie owners continued wrestling with the barking, snarling ball's of white fur at the end of their leashes.

Because of Isis's breed, she is held to a higher standard of behavior, as am I as her owner. Going after another dog the way the Westies did to her would be absolutely unacceptable and would likely result in police being called to the scene. Unfortunately, I've found that many small dogs are allowed by their owners to engage in behavior that would not be tolerated in a larger breed from the menacing barking and lunging to jumping up.

It's unfair to all dog owners and especially to those whose well-managed and well-behaved dogs that may be kept out of events or venues because of someone's past experience with one of the not-so-well-behaved ones. All I can do is make sure I'm doing everything I can to make sure Isis and I are ambassadors for her breed. So far, it seems to be working out, despite incidents like that.

PS - Isn't it ironic that we spent Saturday with several other pitbulls in a somewhat confined space with no problems but just a day later had two less than stellar episodes with so-called "family friendly companion dogs"? See: that's why I'm sticking with pitbulls. Those little dogs are like walking around with loaded guns. Hee hee! :-)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Power tool packin' mama (to be)

A co-worker mentioned today that she was mildly dismayed when her 2 1/2 year old daughter recently declared, "I'm a girl. I'm not a boy. Boys fix fire engines." This despite having a very adept mom who in fact handles most of their household repairs, many of which in fact come at the hands of her tool-challenged husband. "How does this gender stuff get ingrained so early?" she asked slightly incredulously.

I don't know, but I hope our child will see that girls can fix fire engines or anything else, if they put their mind to it. To that end, I'm documenting for posterity my own power tool packin' ways so the bundle-to-be will see that even in-utero, she and her mom were comfortable fixin' broke stuff.

Case in point: our carport light went out last week and we hadn't made time to get it fixed. I did manage to pick up a replacement, but that was about it. After more than a week of putting off the task, fumbling with my key in the dark and not wanting to wait any longer, I took advantage of the 75 degree evening to do some home improvement, pregnancy and all. It took one light, one drill, four drill bits of increasing size (I kept underestimating the size of the screw and expander), two screwdrivers, one pen for marking holes, and one hour of my time. But we've got light, I didn't incur any injuries, and I'm feeling pretty pleased with the result. Guess those high school auto mechanics and woodworking classes are still paying dividends. My child-to-be will either be mildly amused by this memento or use it as proof that I've been a very capable but total dork for a very long time.

28 Weeks

Chugging right along. This is me at the 28 week mark of my pregnancy, in a lovely trapeze cut A-line frock from my friend's shop Missi Lu in Seattle's Madison Valley neighborhood. A-line's are of course great for hiding a multitude of figure features from which one might want to deflect attention. But it's hard to hide the belly at this point. Hard to believe I've still got almost three months to go and this is when women supposedly gain most of their weight. If that's the case for me too, this dress may look like it shrunk in the dryer by the time September rolls around.

GMF ties revisited

The German Marshall Fund contacts we made told us fellowship participants, "You're now part of a network of fellows around the U.S. and Europe." I had a sense of that in meeting European Fellows who'd traveled the U.S. for their fellowship and welcomed us as instant friends, and before I left for my trip when I called a couple fellows from other years for guidance. Without knowing anything more about me than than I was about to embark on the same wonderful adventure they had, they opened up and provide great tips and insights.

Now that I've returned to my regular day-to-day grind, I was reminded of the camaraderie of the trip and the network to which I do indeed belong when I received a call from a fellow traveler, Carrie from Chicago.
She was coming to town for a short visit and we had a chance to get together, reminisce, and catch up on changes in our lives since the trip. The most obvious difference: I've gained some girth and she's lost over a foot of hair!

She also had a chance to catch up with Heather, another fellow in this area. I didn't get a chance to catch up with them again, but it's nice to be reminded that we are indeed part of a unique network of people from all walks of life who are interested in building ties with people across the Atlantic and across the U.S.

I'll get a chance to increase my ties later this week when I host some European Fellows as they travel through the area. I don't think we can match the grandeur of some of our visits in Europe, but we'll try to show the Northwest in a positive light. More fun sure to ensue!